The U.S. Forest Service plans to begin prescribed burns in the Croatan National Forest in January.
About 25,000 acres in the Croatan will be part of the prescribed burn program in 2013, according to a release from the forest service.
The controlled burns benefit native trees and plant species while maintaining habitat for endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, according to the release.
Forest fires are part of the natural ecosystem, and the burns planned by the forest service are intended to mimic those fires that occur in nature, according to the release.
The burns will be conducted under tight parameters, and modeling is to be used to reduce the effects of smoke in the area, according to the release.
In June, the forest service lost control of a prescribed burn when an unexpected burst of wind and windshift sent embers into an area that was not supposed to be part of the burn area. The resulting wildfire burned about 21,000 acres, closed roads in the forest, including Catfish Lake Road, and spread smoke throughout the area for weeks.
Such incidences are rare, according to the forest service, with less than 1 percent of prescribed burns getting out of control.
Meanwhile, the forest service reports that the prescribed burns and other measures are having an impact on restoring about 15,000 of 60,000 acres of longleaf pine forests in the Croatan. The goal is to restore about 150 acres annually, according to the release.
The burns also benefit the rough-leaf loosestrife plant and the Venus fly trap, while adding nutrients back into the soil, according to the release.
Specific dates on the prescribed burns have not been scheduled, as there is a need to wait for proper weather conditions.